After being named in a 28-person grand jury indictment that also included Young Thug earlier this week, rapper Gunna was taken into custody on Wednesday (May 11).
Gunna – real name Sergio Kitchens – is charged, along with the other 27 people listed in the 56-count indictment, with conspiracy to violate the state of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The indictment centres around the YSL record label and collective, allegedly formed by Thug – real name Jeffery Lamar Williams – in 2012, which authorities claim is a “criminal street gang”. Part of the indictment is based around Williams, Kitchens and other YSL associates’ lyrics and social media posts allegedly being “acts in furtherance of the conspiracy”.
Among those lyrics are a line from Williams and Kitchens’ collaboration ‘Slatty’, in which the latter raps: “I killed his man in front of his momma / Like fuck lil bruh, sister and his cousin.”
Now, Gunna’s legal team have responded, describing the RICO indictment as “intensely problematic”.
In a new motion seeking Gunna’s release on bond, the lawyers say he has “no significant criminal history” and that he shouldn’t be locked up because of his lyrics.
“It is intensely problematic that the state relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” they said.
“These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the state’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.
“The music videos referenced are not part of a RICO conspiracy but are entertainment, entertainment that has achieved great success nationally and internationally,” his lawyers argued.
They also pointed out that Gunna is only named in Count 1 of the 56-count indictment involving 28 defendants.
They continued: “The allegations in the indictment, so thin as to be transparent, support Mr. Kitchens’s motion for bond. There is no allegation that he committed any act of violence. There is no allegation that he ever sold any drugs. There is no allegation that he ever committed any act relating to obstruction of justice or interfering with the administration of justice. There is no allegation that he engaged in any conduct which suggests that he would be a flight risk, a danger to the community or a danger to any person.
“The few ‘overt acts’ in the indictment that mention Mr. Kitchens mostly describe non-criminal conduct such as quoting song lyrics. In fact, a large portion of the quoted lyrics were not written or performed by Mr. Kitchens,” they said.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, his defense lawyers Donald F. Samuel, John A. Garland and Kristen W. Novay said: “Mr. Sergio Kitchens, known as Gunna, is innocent. The indictment falsely portrays his music as part of criminal conspiracy. Mr. Kitchens, an entertainer and philanthropist, created the first ever local free in-school grocery and clothing store feeding over 400 children weekly, and nationally sponsored giveaways for victims of disasters and food shortages.
“Mr. Kitchens has been an advocate for his community, and it is our privilege to advocate for him,” they added.
Williams was arrested on Monday (May 9) on two charges: conspiracy to violate the RICO Act and participating in criminal street gang activity. The rapper’s lawyer says Williams “committed no crime whatsoever” and that he and his team would “fight this case ethically, legally and zealously” to clear Williams’ name.
He has since been hit with seven further charges.